Career path: clinical nurse specialist on NP pathway (private surgical hospital)

August 2015 Vol 15 (4)

Nursing mentors have been instrumental in helping clinical nurse specialist JESSICA ONGLEY along her career path towards her ultimate goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.

Jessica OngleyName: Jessica Ongley

Job title: Clinical Nurse Specialist, Southern Cross Hospital Wellington

Nursing qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Nursing 2000 (Otago Polytechnic)
  • Master of Nursing (Clinical) 2012 (Victoria University)
  • Preceptorship of nurses in practice course & PDRP assessor course (Southern Cross)

Briefly describe your initial five years as an RN

I started my career as a new graduate in a medical ward in 2001, and after a few months moved into a surgical ward in a larger public hospital, where I stayed for two years. I then moved to Australia where I spent five months working in a very small regional hospital, followed by a two-year stint in a large general surgical and urology ward based in Perth.

Did you have a career plan on becoming an RN? And how did those first five years influence your subsequent career?

I’d never considered nursing before I went to university but I was passionate about helping people. I chose nursing after a year of not enjoying university and some very sound advice from family and friends. I applied and started studying in 1998.

In my first new grad position I didn’t feel very supported so I left within the first few months feeling a bit disillusioned. Shortly after, I got a job in a large public hospital in the surgical ward, which was absolutely the best thing for my career. I was welcomed into an environment with supportive staff, including senior nurses, and had a charge nurse who always put her staff and patients first.

I started to see the kind of nurse I wanted to become.

Later, while working in Perth, I met my first nursing mentor. She demonstrated care, compassion, and empathy while maintaining her expert knowledge and evidence based practice – everything that I want to be.

It was at that point I started to see nursing as a profession – not just something that I did for a job.

What led you into your current field or specialty?

My second nursing mentor led me to my current field. She was one of my lecturers when I was doing postgraduate study.

I was inspired by the amazing examples she gave from her own practice and because she was genuinely interested in me and my professional potential.

She encouraged me to complete my master’s and work towards becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) in an adult surgical setting. I came to work at Southern Cross as I saw the move as an opportunity to further my career. The nursing leadership and management team within this network are extremely supportive of my determination to achieve NP status. 

What qualifications, skills or stepping stone jobs do you think were particularly helpful and/or necessary in reaching your current role?

As part of my recent role working clinically in the ICU, I was also part of the clinical research team. During this time I gained an even greater passion for evidenced-based-practice, it helped consolidate my skills in writing, accurate data collection, and knowledge of research principles. This has been very beneficial in policy and guideline writing, which is a part of this role.

What personal characteristics do you believe are particularly important for nurses working in your role?

Having a strong work ethic: There is always something to do if you are open and look for it.

Being approachable and open to change: There are days when I may be required to work clinically at the last minute in any part of the hospital so being flexible is essential.

Enjoying working with people: This role is about working with people and providing clinical care for patients, or educational care to staff so they are able to safely and effectively care for patients.

Passion and patience: It’s essential to be passionate as an educator to foster the next generation of nurses, and have patience so they do not get discouraged.

What career advice would you give to nurses seeking a similar role to yours?

Always look for opportunities at work, volunteer for projects, learn about research, and learn how to write policies and guidelines. Work in a few places before you specialise, get a good grounding first. Postgraduate study is essential.

Always remember that at the centre of your practice are patients and families that need your care and support; whether you are the CNS, educator, nurse manager or bedside nurse, it must ultimately benefit the people we care for.

Describe your current role and responsibilities

  • Work clinically on ward, intensive care unit, day-stay and post-anaesthesia care unit (PACU) providing advanced nursing care and assessment, if needed
  • Assess patients daily and write plans of care
  • Work with nursing staff to help care for complex patients
  • Write guidelines and policies, care pathways, patient information leaflets
  • Arrange staff education, run clinical study days
  • Assess and support staff to complete PDRP portfolios
  • Chase bloods and X-rays and discuss results with specialists
  • Mentor and precept new graduate nurses
  • Complete performance reviews
  • Work on national projects
  • Help with day-to-day running of the ward as required

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